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Caring for Succulents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 2, 2014

A wall garden can be constructed with a variety of succulents — plants with thick leaves and stems that can store water — such as aloes, crassulas, echeverias, hawthorias, kalanchoes and sedums. If you have an old door, try placing the plants in wooden boxes filled with soil and sand and affixing them to the door. The succulent plants would then fill in the boxes as their roots grow, creating a vertical wall accent of succulents.

Recently, succulents have gained popularity among gardeners because they can be easy to take care of and their texture and color make them appealing. The most popular succulent garden includes a variety of them planted in a shallow container. Succulent gardens need periodic care by taking cuttings or adding plants to keep up their neat appearance.

The main things that keep succulents from growing are temperatures that drop below 50 degrees; keeping them too wet by not letting them dry between waterings; and not providing enough light.

Additional issues succulents may face is shallow watering (not watering thoroughly each time) or poor light which may cause stretching and loss of lower leaves creating an untidy look.

Propagating a cutting is taking a piece from the original plant, placing the stem in the soil to form roots and therefore making a new plant.

Here's how propagation of succulent cuttings can be done:

-- Use a clean razor blade or garden pruners to remove cutting just below a node of a non-flowering plant. A node is where the leaf attaches to the stem. It is best to take a cutting with at least four or more nodes.

-- Remove the leaves from the bottom two nodes. These nodes will be the site of your new roots.

-- Let cuttings air dry for a week before sticking the cutting into pre-moistened media. A rooting hormone can be dusted on the cut end to promote faster rooting and more uniformed rooting. Use new plug trays or reuse a sterilized annual flat from the previous season.

-- A mix of one part professional soilless media and one part course sand will provide a porous enough environment for good drainage and root growth.

-- Place in sunny window (south or west) and water only when soil media becomes dry. Overwatering will result in decay and poor root growth.

Roots have formed once top growth is increased or a delicate tug reveals resistance. Once roots are formed watering may need to be increased.

Do not transplant until healthy white roots have formed a root ball in the plug tray. This may take the rest of the winter and will guarantee a more successful succulent garden.

Source: Kelly Allsup, Extension Educator, Horticulture, kallsup@uiuc.edu